"Ruth the Moabite would have felt very much at home here."
- Ariana Melamed, Journalist and Literary Critic for YNET News
Cause to celebrate: IMPJ looks back on 50 years as Israel's Reform Movement.
Over the weekend of May 23 and 24 the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) held its golden Jubilee Anniversary Biennial Assembly. 1,200 leaders and members of Reform communities participated in 40 sessions, comprised of plenaries, workshops, study and prayer.
47 communities from throughout Israel, including four Russian speaking congregations, joined together at the Shefayim kibbutz in central Israel to celebrate in the spirit of Reform Judaism.
'Our brothers': Israeli Finace Minister Yair Lapid at IMPJ's Jubilee Anniversary Biennial Assembly.
The Assembly opened Friday morning with an optimistic address by Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid). Lapid noted that "a year after Yesh Atid's election, we are more committed than ever to the cause of equality among all streams of Judaism inside of Israel, as manifested in the issues of conversion, civil marriage and official government recognition…It is incomprehensible that Israel remains the only Western country where Jewish people are not truly free."
Regarding the Israeli Reform Movement, Lapid referred to Progressive congregants as "our brothers," adding that "most Israelis are already members of Reform, but they just don't know it."
'Weakening ties between Israel and world Jewry': Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
The opening plenary of the Assembly also featured Israeli political Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (representing the government), Leader of the Opposition MK Yitzchak Herzog (Labor) and MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud).
Justice Minister Livni said in her address that "Israel has not yet decided what it means to be both a Jewish and democratic state. As our country has become increasingly threatened from without, it has become more insular. As a result, Israel is becoming more nationalistic politically and more Orthodox religiously. These developments are weakening the ties between Israel and world Jewry."
Leader of the Opposition MK Yitzchak Herzog stated that he is "fully committed to religious pluralism in Israel and will do anything to promote it. The solution to the 'price tag' phenomenon is right here, in this room: dialogue with and recognition of those who are different than us."
MK Hanegbi emphasized that he is "a full partner with the values of the Reform Movement. We must continue to struggle for freedom of conscience. You, the Reform Movement, are a rock, standing firm against the racism and religious fanaticism that pervades Israel."
Besides the valuable support of today's Israeli politicians, much time was dedicated to looking back and appreciating the IMPJ's humble roots. Among the many sessions, an especially moving one was the WUPJ's Honorary Life President Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch speaking about the early days of the Movement. The 'Reform Movement and Zionism' session was a poignant reminder of the Movement's decades' long struggle in Israel.
And then, we prayed…
After a busy day, the Sabbath prayer service, led by the Leo Baeck Education Center and members of the Ohel Avraham congregation, provided a jolt of spiritual adrenaline.
An inspirational Shacharit service was led by Rabbi Ada Zavidov and Cantor Evan Cohen of the Har-El congregation, the oldest of the IMPJ kehillot.Faces of tomorrow's Movement: a time to worship at the Assembly.
Havdalah prayer, conducted by Youth Telem, kicked off with powerful observations about Jerusalem Day by IRAC (Israel Religious Action Center) Executive Director Anat Hoffman.
Following Havdalah, the musical stylings of Neshama Karlebach and Josh Nelson put everyone in a peaceful, easy state of mind
Standing on the shoulders of giants…
After Shabbat services, the most emotional moments of the Assembly occurred when Movement founders were honored for their good deeds and unflagging determination.
ARZENU, the International Federation of Reform and Progressive Religious Zionists, represented by Joan Garson, Bill Hess immediate past president of the American Zionist Movement (AZM) and Executive Director Dalya Levy, received the Builders of the Movement award at the opening plenary session.
The Movement's movers and shakers: (left to right) Bill Hess, Joan Garson, Dalya Levy.
Later in the Assembly, Joan, who is completing her tenure as Chair of ARZENU, and her husband David Baskin were honored for their leadership roles in ARZENU. Specifically the Couple were recognized for promoting the construction of Reform nursery schools throughout Israel. Joan and David were also praised for their commitment to the future financial stability of Israel's Reform Movement.
Ruth and Harvey Cohen, Kehilat Ra'anan congregants, long-time leaders of the WUPJ and active supporters of the Jaffa-based pre-army program MECHINA were also recognized for their immense contributions to the Progressive movement in Israel.
Certificates of Honor were also bestowed upon the following Movement founders, including: Ms. Avital Ben Chorin, Mr. Werner Loebel, Rabbi Moti Rotem, Rabbi Reuven Samuels, and Ilana Zemer (in the name of Rabbi Moshe Zemer of blessed memory).
Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch was also recognized for his immense contributions to the Israeli Reform Movement.
Creating Light awards were given to Israeli singer and composer Rami Kleinstein and Israeli dancer and choreographer Ra'anana Raz, both of whom were raised in the Reform community.
While the conference was an undeniable success, IMPJ Executive Director Rabbi Gilad Kariv, asserted that it "is only the first in a series of events marking the jubilee year that will spotlight the Movement's commitment to the building of a pluralistic, tolerant and just Israeli society."
Enjoy a brief musical interlude from the IMPJ Jubilee Anniversary Biennial Assembly now.
"Internationally, we are already mainstream – Liberal Judaism is proud to be a member of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the largest affiliation of Judaism in the world.”
- Lucian J. Hudson, Biennial Conference 2014 Chair
Over 300 delegates attended Liberal Judaism’s biennial conference, the largest such gathering in their history.
Held at Wokefield Park, Reading, 9-11 May, Conference Chair Lucian J. Hudson described Liberal Judaism as the Third Way, and the only solution to the drift away from Jewish tradition.
Radical times: Rabbi Jonah Pesner mesmerizes conference attendees.
The theme of the conference was ‘Radical Roots, Relevant Responses.’ Social justice was a central talking point, with Vice Chair of the Union for Reform Judaism in North America Rabbi Jonah Pesner delivering a blistering keynote address in which he spoke about the need to pursue justice both inside our communities and beyond.
Uncompromisingly egalitarian: Rabbi Danny Rich cites LJ's many accomplishments.
Speeches by Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism Rabbi Danny Rich, Chair of the Rabbinic Conference Rabbi Charley Baginsky and others focused on the achievement of equal marriage and the upcoming 25th anniversary of the ordination of the first openly LGBT rabbis at Leo Baeck College, as well as the victory in the JFS case that ensured that Jewish schools would be made open to all Jews, regardless of affiliation.
L'Chaim from Reading! Conference goers eating, drinking and schmoozing.
Rabbi Danny Rich added that “Liberal Judaism is the catalyst that provokes the Jewish community to change, forcing it to face the challenges of the 21st century.”
A youth event was run alongside the main conference, by LJY-Netzer, the youth movement of Liberal Judaism and part of Netzer Olami our global youth movement.
A sacred moment: Rabbi David Lilienthal ordains Clary Rooda.
On Sunday May 18 Clary Rooda became the seventh rabbi to be ordained at the Dutch Levisson Institute. She was ordained by Rabbi David Lilienthal, founder and now emeritus dean, in the old Spanish and Portuguese synagogue of the Liberal Jewish Congregation in The Hague, together with Rabbi Menno ten Brink, the current Dean of the Institute.
As Rabbi Lilienthal was Clary’s rabbi and teacher, she had requested that he give her the semicha on behalf of the Institute. All Dutch Liberal Rabbis, including the six previous Levisson-ordained rabbis, participated in the ceremony.
Teacher, friend: Rabbi Lilienthal was Clary's mentor along the road to ordination.
Clary wrote her academic thesis on “Eco-kashrut and Jewish Tradition.” Her supervisors were Rabbi Professor Yehoram Mazor and Dr. Bart Wallet, both of whom were present at the semicha, as well as EUPJ Chairman Miriam Kramer, representing the World Union.
Before embarking on her nine-year long journey to become a rabbi, Clary had worked as a counsellor for refugee students in Holland as well as a journalist. While studying at the Levisson Institute, Clary worked as a Jewish pastoral counsellor in a major psychiatric institution.
Tomorrow's leaders: the training of rabbis is the Levisson's Institute's top priority.
News in Brief
Save the Date! 37th International Convention of the WUPJ to Be Held in Rio de Janeiro
Connections 2015 will be held in exciting Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 13-16, 2015. Home to football, Samba and the ARI (Associação Religiosa Israelita) Reform Congregation, Rio de Janeiro is legendary for the hospitality of its residents. The Convention will feature inspirational keynote speakers, stimulating workshops and thought-provoking sessions. ARI is very much looking forward to making you feel right at home in their community: Shabbat worship services and Tikun Olam activities focused on the favelas, Brazil's slum neighborhoods, promise to unite all Convention participants in prayer and social action.
Before the Convention kicks off, board meetings, a Rabbinic Kallah and additional programming will take place May 11-13.
Ukrainians Elect President: Jewish Community Optimistic about Future
May 25, Election Day: People cast their ballots at a polling station in Skole.
Petro Poroshenko won Ukraine's presidential elections, held on May 25, with 55.9% of the votes.
Poroshenko's platform includes ending the conflict in the eastern regions of Ukraine, fighting corruption, introducing key reforms, and advancing Ukraine's European integration.
Presidential candidates Oleh Tyagnibok and Dmitry Yarosh, from the ultra-nationalist Svoboda and the Right Sector parties, received only 1.3% and 0.9% of the vote.
The Ukrainian Jewish community reacted optimistically to the elections. Rabbi Alexander Dukhovny, Chief Rabbi of the Progressive Jewish Congregations in Kyiv and Ukraine, noted that the results "prove that Ukraine is not an anti-Semitic country. Like all proud Ukrainians, we are tired of war and corruption and would like Ukraine to become prosperous and democratic. Only in such a society can a national minority such as ours thrive. We are excited about the future and together with the President - elect look forward to building a new Ukraine that will allow us to embrace the values of the Western civilization."
National Conference Supporting Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia Establishes a Presence in Ukraine
Our man on the ground: Ilya Bezruchko is NCSJ's new Ukraine representative.
NCSJ has brought in journalist and blogger Ilya Bezruchko as its new Ukraine representative.
NCSJ Chairman Stephen Greenberg hailed the move. "NCSJ's new on-the-ground presence provides another resource for assessing Ukraine's political, economic, and social situation during the ongoing crisis, and its impact on Ukraine's Jews," he said.
Bezruchko will be based in Kyiv and travel throughout Ukraine, reporting directly on the well-being of Jewish communities. He will also maintain contact with Ukraine's government and with the diplomatic community, particularly the US and Israeli embassies.
Ilya Bezruchko has worked at Kyiv's Jewish News One Channel. He is a member of the Union of Progressive Judaism in Ukraine's coordinating council and a leader in the Netzer Youth Movement in Ukraine.
Saving the World in November: UPJ Gears up for Biennial Conference
The Union for Progressive Judaism (UPJ) is hard at work, putting the final touches on its Biennial 2014 conference, to be held in Adelaide, South Australia, November 20-23. The program will feature presenters and special guests from Israel, Europe and North America. Attendees will have an opportunity to study, share and schmooze with friends from across the region. The Beit Shalom Synagogue will play host to this vibrant meeting. The theme of Biennial 2014 is Ani v'Atah: You and I Will Change the World and is a tribute to the music of Arik Einstein, a pioneer of Israeli music whose work has inspired social activism throughout the Jewish world.
City of Toronto Honors Solel Congregation Rabbi Lawrence
Power couple: Rabbi Lawrence Englander and Cheryl Englander.
Rabbi Lawrence Englander, who is stepping down as leader of the Solel Congregation of Mississauga, was feted by the city of Toronto at a gala dinner in which he and his wife Cheryl, who is an ARZA Canada Vice President, were honored. Rabbi Larry will be entering his new role as ARZENU President in the next few weeks. Rabbi Lawrence and Cheryl have been the guiding force of Solel since its inception in 1973. In 2005, his life-long community dedication was recognized by Her Excellency, the Right Honorable, Adrienne Clarkson, who named Rabbi Englander as a Member of the Order of Canada. Cheryl is the proud recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal as recognition of her community service work.
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Meeting at Yad Vashem: Rabbi Sergio Bergman listens to his friend, Pope Francis.
Rabbi Sergio Bergman is the founder of Fundacion Judaica and a newly elected lawmaker in Argentina’s parliament. He is also a close friend of Pope Francis, who paid a historic visit to Israel on May 25 and 26.
Rabbi Bergman was present when Pope Francis gave a short speech during his visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the Holocaust, addressing humanity as “Adam” and blaming it for descending to the murderous behavior that lead to the deaths of six million Jews.
'Never again!!': Pope Francis's inscription in the Yad Vashem visitors' book.
Pope Francis also put his thoughts on paper, writing in the Yad Vashem visitors' book (pictured above):
"With the shame of what man, created in the image and likeness of G-d, was capable of doing. With the shame that man has taken ownership of evil; with the shame that man, believing he is G-d, has sacrificed his brothers like that.
Never again!! Never again!!"